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Issues and mechanisms of accountability: examples from Solomon Islands paper

CollectionsDPA Discussion Papers
Title: Issues and mechanisms of accountability: examples from Solomon Islands paper
Author(s): Larmour, Peter
Keywords: Solomon Islands;financial accountability;political accountability;public servants;politicians;statutory bodies;provincial government;managerial reforms;private sector;Ombudsman;Leadership Code Commission
Date published: 2000
Publisher: Canberra, ACT: State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) Program, The Australian National University
Series/Report no.: Discussion Paper (The Australian National University, State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) Program): 2000/1
Governments are being asked to become more ‘accountable’ to the legislature, to the media, to the private sector and to citizens. This paper looks at some issues in accountability, and at some mechanisms by which it can be achieved. It uses examples drawn from Solomon Islands. The word ‘accountability’ has several related meanings in English • actions be open to inspection and challenge • actions follow rules or expected standards • the financial books are in order. The South Pacific Forum Finance Ministers have adopted eight principles of ‘best practice’ for public accountability. They deal with two related kinds of accountability—financial and political. Financial accountability is a means of controlling expenditure. Where public expenditure is a large part of the economy, it becomes an important tool of economic policy. It is a way of managing large bureaucracies. Political accountability is a way of achieving democracy. Accountability may be direct, when voters ask candidates, Members of Parliament or Congress, or public servants to explain themselves. Or it may be indirect, when voters elect representatives who in turn demand accountability from public servants. Political and financial accountability have developed in different ways. Political accountability has developed with democracy. Financial accountability has developed as a neutral, technical way for leaders, democratic or not, to manage their subordinates. Historically, these two forms of accountability came together in the office of an auditor general, responsible to Parliament or Congress. The office gave politicians, representing the people, the ability to call the government to account for its expenditure. Michael Harmon defines accountability as an authoritative relationship in which one person is formally entitled to demand that another answer for (that is, provide an account of) his or her actions; rewards or punishments may be meted out to the latter depending on whether those actions conform to the former’s wishes. .....The accountability of the Solomon Islands public service to parliament is purposely limited by the constitution. Nevertheless, politicians have a range of other ways of making civil servants accountable, and have worked around the public service by appointing their own advisers and board members of statutory corporations, and by the creation of Constituency Development Funds. At the same time, institutions such as the Ombudsman Commission and Leadership Code Commission have tended, in Solomon Islands, to act on behalf of public servants, and political leaders, rather than as means of making them accountable to the public. .....Professionalisation and participation, however, are characteristic of a service-delivery state that may be on the way out, as (in Solomon Islands) fiscal crises drive privatisation. Already corporatised entities like Works are, as the Ombudsman discovered, beyond the scope of parliamentary mechanisms of accountability. As the private sector grows in relation to the public sector, new relationships of mutual accountability will have to be developed, perhaps foreshadowed by the representation of the Chamber of Commerce in the committees involved in public sector reform.
ISSN: 1328-7854


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